NCAA Football

10 Biggest Surprises In College Football For 2012

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2012 Biggest College Football Surprises

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The 2012 college football season has been one for the books. Depending on who your team of choice is, it’s probably had many ups, many downs or could possibly be somewhere in-between.

After everything that happened this season, it was hard to narrow the list down to just 10. Like where did the Texas Tech Red Raiders defense come from early on in the season? Not to mention the Auburn Tigers or the Arkansas Razorbacks very disappointing seasons.

We got to see a freshman quarterback get himself a fancy nickname and surprise an entire conference by knocking off the best team in it.

We saw the rebirth of one of the most storied programs in college football history return to glory. We also so one of the most storied programs in college football, which was picked to win it all, finish with a disappointing 7-5 record.

We saw a team run with a linebacker at quarterback because it burned through five players on their roster at the position due to injury.

People exclaiming teams are “back”, like every season, and end up not actually being “back”.

It wouldn’t be a proper college football season if there weren’t some crazy scenarios, weird press conferences (I’m looking at you, John L. Smith and Lane Kiffin) and upsets. That’s why the World Wide Leader uses the phrase, “Upset Lives Here” on Saturdays.

There were plenty of surprises, more than enough to make the list longer than 10. But these are my Top 10 surprises, the good and the bad.

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Oregon State Beavers


A team that wasn't even mentioned to be to be in the hunt for the PAC 12 title came in and surprised the whole conference; the Oregon State Beavers. They were actually picked 9th in the conference and many said they would have a rough go at trying to become bowl eligible.

The Beavers proved all the doubters wrong by not only becoming bowl eligible, but going 8-3 and probably going to the Holiday Bowl. They do have a game this Saturday even though the PAC 12 Championship is the same day. They are up against Nicholls State, which was originally their opening game of the season and was postponed due to Hurricane Issac, which closed down Nicholls State's campus. So a win on Saturday puts them at 9-3.

The Beavers haven't been to a bowl game since the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl and actually went 3-9 last season. It came as a surprise to have the Beavers add some parity to the PAC 12 North.

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Super MARIOta


One thing we were certain of about the Oregon Ducks before the season started was that the offense would be explosive. What we didn't know was that a freshman QB would be one of the key factors in that. QB Mario Mariota, which is called Super Mariota by some of the Eugene faithful, has come out and surprised quite a few people with his level of play.

Mariota has 30 touchdowns in the air and is just as lethal in his ground game. And that's just what an opposing team in the PAC 12 doesn't want to see: the Ducks with another ground weapon.

Mariota was a last-minute decision out of the Duck camp in the presason. He was up against sophomore, Bryan Bennett. Clearly they made the right choice, since Mariota will only get better with more time under his belt.

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Kansas State Wildcats

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Bill Snyder proved in 2012 why he is mentioned as one of the best college football coaches the game has seen. The Kansas State Wildcats came completely out nowhere to run the table in the Big 12. Well, at least up until the game against the Baylor Bears.

The Wildcats were picked as a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team in the preseason, with a No. 6 in the conference ranking. With Collin Klein coming back, they seemed to have a chance, but not many were giving it to them.

Klein had a Heisman worthy season, and will most likely still make the trip to NYC for the awards ceremony. Whether he still has a shot is yet to be unseen, since many counted him out after the loss to Baylor.

A win over the Texas Longhorns on Saturday will make the Wildcats the Big 12 Champions and earn them a trip to a BCS bowl. For a team that wasn't even picked to sniff the Big 12 title at the beginning of the season and who ended up sniffing the National title, it was a pleasant surprise.

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THE Undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes


If you had Urban Meyer going undefeated his first year with a new team and in a new conference with a team on sanctions, please share your lotto numbers. THE Ohio State Buckeyes went undefeated and did so in very entertaining fashion. Two overtime games and a couple very close calls, but they pulled it out.

Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller is a finalist for the Manning Award. He has been deadly not only in the air, but on the ground.

I have a feeling the Buckeyes and Meyer are going to do some damage in the Big 10 for many more years to come. While Buckeye Nation, which would be facing Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship game this season if it wasn't for sanctions, have to sit home and watch a bowl game this year. But you can bet that they will be looking for a repeat performance next season.

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Nick Florence


When you have shoes to fill that are as big as RGIII's were last season for the Baylor Bears, it seems like an unthinkable task. Insert Bears QB, Nick Florence. I had Florence as one of my preseason players to keep an eye on and he exceeded expectations. He took control of their high-powered offense and didn't miss a beat when it came to lighting up the field.

Florence finished the season with 30 touchdowns and 3825 yards. He propelled the Bears to finish the season with the No. 2 offense in the country and is the highest rated QB in the FBS.

Though the Bears finished with a 6-5 record, Florence came out and proved that your name doesn't have to be Robert Griffin III to be a successful QB at Baylor.

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They ARE Penn State


Who would have thought that after the off-season that the Penn State Nittany Lions had that they would be able to overcome everything they did. Head coach Bill O'Brien even received the Big 10 coach of the year honor. O'Brien rallied that team, overcame adversity and ended up 8-4 on the season. Considering what went on, that's quite a feat.

O'Brien made people forget about the worst scandal in college football or possibly even college history when the team took the field. He gave the fans and the people of Happy Valley, Pennsylvania something to be excited about. O'Brien doesn't want any of the credit though. He puts it all on the players. He did something that had never happened in Penn State history, he put the players names on the back of the jersey. He wanted them to be honored individually instead of taking heat for where they play.

Not that it would have mattered in the long run, people are recognizing these kids and O'Brien for what they were able to do. As they should, they ARE Penn State. Not the scandal, this team is.

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MACtion? MACtion


The magic of MACtion. A pleasant surprise for those of us who are fans of the little guy getting a solid chance to play against the big boys in a BCS game. The possibility of a Mid-American Conference team playing in a BCS bowl in 2012 is a very real scenario. The Kent State Golden Flashes are No. 17 and take on the No. 21 Northern Illinois Huskies in the MAC championship game on Friday. If the Golden Flashes win, they could possibly be in.

The BCS rules state that the highest-ranked team from a non-BCS conference earns automatic qualification if it finishes in the top 16 and a conference champion from a BCS conference finishes lower than 16th.

Both NIU and Kent State are sitting at 11-1 and the conference has never had a team compete in a BCS bowl. So to say that seeing how well the MAC has done this season is an understatement.

It is always nice to see the little guy get some respect, unless he knocks your team out of the BCS picture...

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Preseason AP No. 1 To Not In The Top 25


Preseason No. 1? Check. Preseason Heisman front-runner? Check. Unfinished business? Check. Completing the season 7-5 and not even ranked? Ouch and check. The USC Trojans were finally able to go to a bowl game, had stud quarterback Matt Barkley return for his senior season and had the talent on the field that led many to believe, including myself, that the Trojans were going to win it all.

Barkley didn't have the season that was projected for him and the Trojans dropped four out of their last five games. Even losing to cross-town rival, the UCLA Bruins, a team they beat 50-0 in 2011.

Despite all of the chaos in L.A., the Nation got to see WR Marqise Lee have a banner year. The guy can do things on a football field that a lot of players can only aspire to do. Did I mention he is only a sophomore?

Lane Kiffin's Trojans didn't have the season most had hoped to see or had projected for them in their first year off of the bowl ban. To say that they are one of the most shocking surprises for the 2012 football season seems fair.

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Texas A&M And The Johnny Football Frenzy

Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE

We knew going in that Texas A&M Aggies quarterback, Johnny Manziel was supposed to be good. How good was the bigger question. Well, insert a fancy nickname, Johnny Football, crazy stats and a win over the No. 1 team in the country and you have reached cult status in College Station. Manziel, a freshman, leads the Aggies in not only passing but is the team's leading rusher. Many are claiming that he is the Heisman front-runner.

Not only was Johnny Football a surprise, the Aggies first season in the SEC was a surprise. Many didn't even have the Ags winning 6 games. They finished 10-2 and surprised a group of people that had been saying for months that a Big 12 team would never do well in the mighty SEC. All those Aggies fans proclaiming otherwise have something to hang their hats on now.

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The Irish Are Back


The Notre Dame Fighting Irish's season came as a surprise to the whole country except for maybe the Irish faithful. A team that wasn't even in the rankings during the preseason has fought their way to an undefeated, perfect season. They are playing for the crystal ball in January and are currently waiting to see who their opponent will be after this weekend's championship games.

Not only are the Irish undefeated, but they are possibly housing the next Heisman Trophy winner, Manti Te'o. The odds are not in Te'o's favor to win the trophy, but he will most likely get to make the trip to New York. The last player to win the award from Notre Dame was Tim Brown in 1987.

The Irish and their fans have had a whirlwind season, which has been a long time coming for the boys out of Southbend. The last 20 years of saying extra hail mary's to the Touchdown Jesus has paid off.

Regardless of how you feel about the Irish, it's nice to see them shake college football up again. Contrary to what people like to say, Notre Dame has never not been relevant. They always have been there, waiting for their triumphant return and out of nowhere, it was 2012.